kids wearing masks for wishes

Volunteer Janna turns mask sewing hobby into funds for wish kids

Janna Katz has been a dedicated volunteer of Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area for about six years.

She got her start as an office volunteer, but quickly fell in love with wish granting—she loves meeting with wish kids, learning about their one true wish, and eventually seeing the experience come to life. 

Since becoming a wish granter, Katz has gone on to grant about 10 wishes each year. “Being able to grant wishes is like being a fairy godmother,” she says. “I really treasure it when I hear back from families about how the wish experience gave them hope and happiness in the face of their child's illness.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, Katz got out her mother’s sewing machine–a Singer Featherweight from 1951—to begin sewing masks for friends and family. It was a fun hobby that kept her occupied while sheltering in place. Katz also saw the significance of encouraging mask-wearing in her community. “I read how masks could help flatten the curve and stop the spread of disease,” she says. “So I started to advocate for mask wearing and wrote my elected officials to encourage a Mask Up effort.”

Eventually, Katz was sewing masks at such a rate that friends suggested she start a business. Instead, she says, “I thought of making it a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish.” She spread the word at her local farmers market, on street signs, and via social media. She also shared her fundraiser with other Make-A-Wish volunteers and wish alumni, who embraced the campaign with open arms.

For each mask sold, Katz is able to donate $5 to Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area. She’s already far surpassed her every expectation, raising an incredible $3,000 for local kids with critical illness. “Every time I send them another $500 check, I raise my goal,” she says. “I hope to keep selling masks as long as people need them.”

Eventually, Katz hopes to reach $10,000 in order to join our Adopt-A-Wish program, which allows fundraisers to make an immediate, direct, and substantial impact on the life of a child by underwriting the average cost of a wish.

Whatever amount Katz ultimately reaches, all the funds raised through her Masks for Wishes campaign will have a crucial impact on kids in the community, especially now when so much uncertainty lies ahead. “For families with a child is facing a life threatening illness, the world can be a very scary place,” she says. “I like to think of the wish as a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel–something that can give hope during the tough times of treatment.”

“Janna’s fundraiser has been inspiring to see,” says Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area Volunteer Manager Daniel Marlay. “She has hand-sewn hundreds of masks already, and shows no signs of slowing down. Congrats to Janna on a job well done!”

I like to think of the wish as a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel–something that can give hope during the tough times of treatment.
Janna Katz, Make-A-Wish Volunteer

Janna encourages others to get involved, either by purchasing a mask through her websitevolunteering their time as a wish granter, or hosting a fundraiser of their own.

“I let others know that volunteering is a flexible time commitment, and that we really need people with Spanish and other language skills,” she says. “And right now, many of the Make-A-Wish events are postponed due to the pandemic, so if you can help out by raising funds, you can make more wishes possible.”

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